Greek Grammarians and Roman Society during the Early Empire: Statius' Father and his Contemporaries

Classical Antiquity 21 (1):67-94 (2002)
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Statius' Silvae 5.3 is a poem written in honor of the poet's dead father. In the course of the poem, Statius recounts his father's life and achievements. Prominent among these accomplishments are the years the elder Statius spent as a teacher of Greek poetry—a grammarian—in Naples. Statius tells us which Greek poets his father taught and to whom. The content and audience of Statius' father's instruction form the basis of this paper. A number of the Greek poets taught by Statius' father are not obvious candidates for inclusion in a course of instruction in Greek poetry. Lycophron, Corinna or Epicharmus, for instance, are not commonly found in other accounts of Greek education in Roman Italy during the early empire. The elder Statius' pedagogical activity has thus been viewed as a Neapolitan peculiarity. Yet, I argue, the same authors taught by Statius' father were the focus of grammarians who were working in Rome itself. The curriculum of Statius' father is thus representative of Greek intellectual activity in early imperial Rome. The pedagogical activity of Statius senior is relevant to Roman intellectual history in a second way. His students consisted of aristocrats from around the Bay of Naples and southern Italy. Some of these students were likely Roman. So too the students of the Greek grammarians working in Rome likely encountered young Romans. How did the study of some mainstream and some recondite Greek poets fit into the élite discourse of the early empire? I argue that knowledge of the poets taught by the elder Statius was geared towards marking off the élite from the non-élite. Students of grammarians such as Statius' father were given the tools to engage in aristocratic discourse, which constituted a claim for prestige and honor in early imperial Rome



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